Travel: Sorrento, Italy


Sun-kissed Sorrento is the perfect base for travel forays along the Amalfi Coast, one of Italy's most prized destinations.

You can take your chances in a rental car on the maze of serpentine roads that lace the rocky coast, but a far more leisurely option is to take advantage of the outstanding public transport, whether bus or hydrofoil.

Be sure to take the bus at least one way. You will get a first-hand appreciation of the region's mountainous terrain, dotted with rustic villages, terraced citrus orchards and olive groves - and head-spinning coastal views.

As your bus driver adroitly negotiates the impossibly narrow lanes and hairpin bends, your nose will be pressed against the window, so startlingly beautiful are the vistas of whitewashed villas clinging to sheer slopes that drop to the vivid, blue water.

The bus service connects Sorrento to the two main tourist meccas, Positano and Amalfi. If you have the time, stop off at both.

Home to 5000 people, photogenic Amalfi is swamped by millions of day-trippers every year. Try to steer clear of the peak summer crunch which climaxes in July and August.

Amalfi village was once the capital of a powerful maritime republic, but much of the old city and its populace literally slid into the sea following a monster earthquake in 1743.

However, some medieval gems survived the tragedy, notably the Piazza del Duomo, which is dominated by a sweeping staircase up to the dazzling Cattedrale di Sant'Andrea.

The cathedral dates back to the 10th century, although its striking striped marble facade has been remodelled twice. The extravagant baroque interior of gilded fittings and trimmings is pure eye-candy.

For hard-core history buffs there are museums and galleries to peruse but, personally, Amalfi's strongest appeal is its seaside setting and the pleasure of lingering in the shopping lanes, sunning yourself on the beach, and watching people go by.

If you have a hankering for serious exercise, set aside a day for the region's Path of the Gods. The 12km trek links Positano with the southern village of Praiano, carving through spectacular countryside and limestone cliffs.

Much of the walk requires navigating steep, rocky paths. If you're short on time, here's a shortcut. Take the bus from Positano to Nocelle, then walk down the Path of the Gods to Positano and absord the heavenly views on the way.

Where to stayPerfectly positioned in central Sorrento with wide views from the glorious rooftop pool, Hotel Plaza has been a beacon of Sorrentine hospitality for 40 years. The stylish, whitewashed hotel has beautifully designed rooms, high-tech amenities and an excellent complimentary breakfast. I love this great-value hotel and it's surprisingly gentle on Kiwi budgets. Book direct at www.plazasorrento.com

- Hamilton News

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